The purpose of discipline is to help and correct, not to punish or humiliate. But this principle is conveniently forgotten in our schools, where discipline is synonymous with punishment. The recent incident in which 88 girl students of an Arunachal Pradesh school were made to undress in front of others for writing “vulgar” words is a case in point. It highlighted how teachers often, in their attempt to enforce discipline, end up violating children’s dignity, scarring them for life. In another recent case, a Class 2 boy was badly beaten up in a Bengaluru school and when parents sought answers, the school promptly dismissed the child.
According to a study, two out of three school children are physically abused in India. It’s sad how children are at the receiving end both at their homes and schools. Indian and international laws require governments to protect children from all forms of violence. Research has shown punishing children is an ineffective disciplinary tool. It can lead to resentment and low self-esteem, and make children antisocial. The Right to Education Act, 2009, prohibited physical punishment and mental harassment of students and made it a punishable offence. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights issued guidelines to eliminate corporal punishment. School education boards have repeatedly warned schools against the practice. But continuing incidents show laws and regulations have not had the desired results—mainly because legal options are used only in extreme cases.
The solution lies in creating awareness and imparting teachers with skills to manage children without resorting to punishment. The practice of corporal punishment is blamed on the working conditions of teachers—overcrowded classes, unruly children and pressure to deliver results. But the fact is that children are not to blame for any of these. Steps must be taken to end the culture of punishment-oriented discipline. Help children solve their problems, but don’t make them suffer for having one.